2003 Movies

In our 2003 movie Plex database, we've consolidated a year's worth of fun movies into one streamlined page. This database offers immediate access to films released in 2003, providing an efficient resource for any film enthusiast.
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Browse 5,383 titles in our 2003 Movies Database

The Best Movies of 2003

Each of the films mentioned below had its own unique voice and tone, and they covered a variety of genres and themes. Let's take a look at these gems, unraveling what makes them a captivating watch even today.

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

The phenomenal epic fantasy saga, The Lord of the Rings, gave us its final installment, 'The Return of the King.' The film, directed by Peter Jackson, presented an immaculate adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's iconic trilogy. Many enthusiasts consider it the finest of the series, and it was unanimously hailed as the apex of 2003's cinematic panorama. Its achievements were affirmed by the Academy, earning an extraordinary collection of awards.

Lost in Translation

In the same year, Sofia Coppola's 'Lost in Translation' gained significant acclaim. It offered Bill Murray a role that arguably remains his most critically praised performance. Sharing the limelight was a pre-stardom Scarlett Johansson, whose stellar performance solidified her career trajectory. The film's eloquent imagery and profound dialogue rendered it an emotional and introspective masterpiece.

Mystic River

The suspense-filled narrative of 'Mystic River,' directed by Clint Eastwood, left the audiences captivated. Sean Penn's performance, alongside Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon, and Laurence Fishburne, added depth to this intricately woven tale. The film's reverence is reflected in the critical acclaim it received, as well as in its numerous nominations at the 76th Academy Awards.

Finding Nemo

Among the animated marvels of the year, 'Finding Nemo' by Pixar was a delightful blend of poignant storytelling and heartwarming moments. Its popularity led to a sequel, 'Finding Dory,' more than a decade later. The film's impactful narrative and creative brilliance still resonate, making it one of Pixar's most cherished creations.


Charlize Theron's transformative performance in 'Monster,' a biographical crime drama directed by Patty Jenkins, was undeniably remarkable. Her portrayal earned her the Best Actress accolades from both the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards. It remains, to this day, a defining role in her illustrious career.

House of Sand and Fog

Among the understated gems of the year was 'House of Sand and Fog,' a psychological drama directed by Vadim Perelman. Despite a humble box office performance, it was recognized at the Academy Awards with nominations for Best Actor for Ben Kingsley and Best Supporting Actress for Shohreh Aghdashloo. This film, enriched by its characters and narrative, is often hailed as one of the standout movies of 2003.

American Splendor

Another film that stood out was 'American Splendor,' a critically acclaimed biographical comedy-drama. It secured a place in numerous top ten lists and received a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination at the Academy Awards. The film's success can be largely attributed to the captivating performances of Paul Giamatti and Hope Davis.


The South Korean film industry made waves globally with Park Chan-wook's 'Oldboy,' the second installment of his "Vengeance" trilogy. The film's infamous hallway scene and its compelling narrative put South Korea on the cinematic map, making it a significant title in world cinema.

Memories of Murder

Another South Korean film that garnered attention was Bong Joon-ho's 'Memories of Murder.' The mystery crime film, which is often compared to David Fincher's 'Zodiac,' marked a significant point in Joon-ho's career. It demonstrated the director's potential years before his monumental success with 'Parasite' in 2019.

Big Fish

Closing our list is 'Big Fish,' a film directed by Tim Burton and starring Ewan McGregor. A film that explores a son's quest to understand his dying father's past, it blends reality with whimsical fantasy. The film stands as a testament to the captivating storytelling and visual mastery that defines Burton's work.

2003 Movies & Industry Highlights

Highest-Grossing Films

The box office in 2003 presented an intriguing lineup. The list was led by "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King." The film, distributed by New Line, grossed an astounding 1.14 billion dollars. This achievement made it not only the top-earning film for the year but also placed it as the second highest-grossing film of all time up until that point.

Following closely, "Finding Nemo" from Buena Vista accumulated a worldwide gross of approximately 871 million dollars. This notable achievement marked it as the most successful animated film until 2004, when it was surpassed by "Shrek 2".

Other notable entries in the top-grossing list include "The Matrix Reloaded" by Warner Bros. with a gross of 739 million dollars, "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl" by Buena Vista with 654 million dollars, and "Bruce Almighty" co-distributed by Universal and Buena Vista, amassing 485 million dollars.

Mid-List Successes and Their Earnings

Other films making the list of high earners included "The Last Samurai" by Warner Bros., which managed to amass a respectable 455 million dollars. "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines," distributed by Warner Bros., Sony Pictures, and Columbia, brought in roughly 433 million dollars.

"The Matrix Revolutions" by Warner Bros. saw substantial earnings with approximately 427 million dollars. Fox's "X2" and Sony Pictures' "Bad Boys II" also made notable entries with their substantial contributions to the box office, amassing around 408 million and 273 million dollars, respectively.

Memorable Events in 2003

While box office earnings paint a major part of the 2003 picture, several other events were significant within the film industry. On February 24, the film "The Pianist," directed by Roman Polanski, was recognized with seven César Awards. The accolades included Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Sound, Best Production Design, Best Music, and Best Cinematography.

2003 also marked the passing of two esteemed actors. On June 12, Gregory Peck passed away due to bronchopneumonia, and later on June 29, Katharine Hepburn died of cardiac arrest.

In a slightly different realm of film and politics, on November 17, Arnold Schwarzenegger, known for his role in "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines", took on a new role as the Governor of California.

Towards the end of the year, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences made a surprising decision. On December 22, they ruled that both films from the Matrix trilogy released in 2003 would not be considered for visual effects Oscar consideration. This decision was made by the Visual Effects Award Nominating Committee.

Lastly, on December 31, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences mailed nomination ballots, in which it qualified 254 films released in 2003 for Oscar consideration.